THE jailed leader of the grassroots group the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sanchez, may be the worst-treated of Catalonia’s imprisoned political prisoners, according to the state’s Human Rights Ombudsman.

Sacked ministers Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn, along with the two Jordis – Sanchez and Cuixart, president of Omnium Cultural – have been locked up for more than three months for their part in the Catalan independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

Speaking exclusively to The National, Rafael Ribo said he had twice visited Sanchez – an “absolutely peaceful person” – in Soto Real prison, near Madrid.

“Jordi Sanchez was my deputy before he was arrested,” Ribo said. “He is a very well-known scholar and director of the most important social research foundation in Catalonia, the Jaume Bofill Foundation.

“He is a marshal officer, one of the persons the US Government trusts to select students to go on scholarships to the United States. He is an absolutely peaceful person and he was arrested almost four months ago accused of extreme violence.

“I think it’s a huge injustice – I have visited him in jail twice and he’s in a strong personal position, but he’s in jail.

“He is maybe the worst-treated person among those political prisoners who are now in jail, because in the prison where he is, Soto Real, there are several Unionist personnel, very, very extreme right [wing], much more than in the other jails, like Estremera.”

Ribo said the authorities also considered Sanchez most likely to have strong public support after organising “huge demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets in a very peaceful and calm way”.

Ribo added that he had raised with the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner the politicis-ation by Mariano Rajoy’s government of Spain’s Constitutional Court (TC), which issued findings that went against the country’s constitution.

“The Spanish Constitutional Court, without admitting to the request of the Spanish State Government, has adopted unsolicited precautionary measures, which are not provided for in the Spanish Constitution, nor in its organic law, and in a procedure [challenge of autonomous provisions] that it does not provide for it,” his office said in a statement.

“These precautionary measures have a direct impact on the rights of a deputy [MP] elected in the last elections of December 21, the right of popular representation of the Parliament, and also, in general, the rights of political participation of all the citizens of Catalonia.”

Ribo added: “The economic complexities we inherited from the Franco period are also behind this decision – using state institutions like the TC in a very wrong way – don’t forget that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe criticised the constitutional court, saying ‘you are converting the referee, the arbiter’.”

Ribo said he was not disappointed that Europe had remained so quiet on the Catalan question, given that the European Union had “little development” in human rights.

“I trust much more the Council of Europe where there are 47 states … and several treaties that are applied inside those states,” he said.

“I don’t expect anything [to happen] in the governments in the European Commission – the states respect each other and say the Catalan questions is an internal matter. But I see several leaders have spoken out about the problem, such as the Irish prime minister two weeks ago.”

Ribo said he hoped indy-supporting parties “so-called independentists” will be able to regroup to carry their cause forward: “I hope they are going to be able to elect a new government and then ... get the self-government tools, but there is a very big job to do to convince the other political forces that it is a political problem, not a judicial or a penal problem.”

Catalan pro-independence parties are expected reach an agreement within days to swear in a new president, it has emerged, following a series of talks.

Yesterday, Together for Catalonia (JxCat) officials met party leader Carles Puigdemont in Brussels, where he has been in exile since the Catalan independence declaration. He also met members of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).

One idea being floated is that pro-indy MPs swear in Puigdemont as “legitimate” president in Brussels, while someone else would be installed in the Catalan Parliament to keep everything above Spanish law.